by Shane Pollock
Since taking office in 2017, the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt has been reported of meeting with at least 39 of his campaign donors, including major oil, gas, and coal companies, such as Murray Energy. This report comes at a time where Pruitt is facing a lot of criticism for his office’s spending habits. The meetings with past donors have greatly outnumbered meetings with environmental organizations. On top of this, Pruitt has already given speeches at 4 different events planned by the Federalist Society, another one of Pruitt’s donors during his campaign for Attorney General. Pruitt has also been seen touring a coal mine in Wyoming, Arch Coal, which ironically also donated to his campaign in 2014. All of these meetings and events are made public by the EPA, and can be seen here: https://www.epa.gov/senior-leaders-calendars/calendar-scott-pruitt-administrator .
What do you think about Pruitt focusing a lot of his time on past donors of his campaigns? Is it a normal part of politics, or is in inappropriate for a sitting administrator to do? Do you think Pruitt should be more concerned with our environment than maintaining past relationships? Personally, I believe Pruitt is focusing far too much of his time on the wrong industries. With so much attention on the oil & gas industry, how is he benefiting our environment?
by Ryan Molloy
During a press conference in New York last Thursday, the president of the United Nations (Antonio Guterres) delivered strong words about what this nation’s biggest threat is. Many were expecting answers similar to nuclear attacks, civil war, etc. Although Guterres stated his belief that the biggest threat to humanity is climate change, Guterres then mentioned that the economic cost of climate related disaster has hit a staggering $320 billion. He expresses concern of how many more “alarm bells” need to go off before the issue is taken as seriously as it should be.
Focusing on emissions, Guterres is holding a United Nations Summit on Climate change next year, specifically targeting government leaders to strengthen their pledges that they have made to curb emissions under the Paris agreement before 2020. Although Trump has announced the United States’ departure from the Paris agreement, it does not end until 2020. With that being said, not only do government leaders need to do their part but business leaders and powerful investors also play crucial roles as well. Guterres believes that all around the world the role of government is becoming less and less relevant and the role of the economy and society is playing a larger role. American businesses and society has done a great job in enforcing the Paris Agreement. Unlike American businesses, the government is doing the exact opposite and completely withdrawing from the agreement. Guterres still holds out hope that he can get the Trump administration to stay with the Paris Agreement.
by Isa Molewijk
There has been a lot of controversy around the appointment of Scott Pruitt as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. The walking contradiction of an anti-environmentalist in charge of the EPA has been subject to both outrage and applause all over the world. Now Pruitt is under fire for several scandals about his spending habits, like the deal to rent a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a gas industry lobbyist. Headlines like ‘White house considered firing Scott Pruitt’ and ‘Scott Pruitt’s bizarre condo scandal and mounting ethics questions’ scatter the news. Even republicans openly question Pruitt’s legitimacy. Furthermore, it strikes a more fundamental question about the existence of the EPA and the overall United States political system. How could an anti-environmentalist become chief of the EPA in the first place? And who will stand for the environment in times of Global Warming?
In the Netherlands there was a similar case of a ‘walking contradiction’ when anti-immigration-politician Rita Verdonk was appointed minister of Integration and Immigration. With an increasing amount of refugees in Europe from war-torn countries, Verdonk sought to sharpen immigration laws and regulations. During her term (2003-2007) her directness and dehumanizing policies earned her the nickname ‘Iron Rita’. Fortunately, she did not get all policies through. Mainly because of the existence of the Dutch Council for Refugees, a Non-Governmental Organization (although partially government funded) which is leading in expertise and lobbies immigration policies to the House of Representatives. They work close together with the government and when the government does not take their advice they use the media to demand consideration. In every branch of government there is a non-governmental agency that needs to be reckoned with. Their non-governmental nature causes them to solely have their purpose at mind, not worrying about re-election or presidential appointments. In the case of environmental policy, the Dutch government sets the frameworks, but the law is mostly shaped by non-governmental agency Stichting Natuur & Milieu (Nature and Environment).
The Trump Administration and appointment of Scott Pruitt seemed to perish all hope for environmental protection in the U.S. However, it was an executive order from president Nixon that created the EPA in the first place. Maybe Scott Pruitt should not be on fire for non-surprising unethical behavior, but the entire political system that got him to be chief in the first place. Maybe the EPA should have a less governmental nature and there should be more non-governmental third party organizations to be reckoned with. It is time to be creative and demand change in a fundamental anti-environmental system. After all, environmental protection should not be linked to being a republican or democrat: we all breath the same air and we will all suffer the consequences of human-fueled global warming.
by Catherine Long
A common theme among the blog posts we have discussed throughout the semester has been President Trump’s dedication to reversing most Obama-era policies in relation to the environment. This article continues this theme, however there is also an added element of federalism at work. Through the 1970 Clean Air Act, the EPA has worked to reduce the emissions from cars by setting stricter fuel economy standards. Under President Obama, great strides were taken to ensure this would be the case until 2025, almost ten years after his departure. The 1970 Clean Air Act also allowed for waivers to be given to states who wanted to set their own fuel economy standards. California has participated in this system and wishes to set stricter fuel economy standards in order to encourage growth in the electric car sector. However, upon taking office, President Trump assured the automobile industry that he along with the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt would review the standards set by the EPA under President Obama and that he would set the standards at a level that would allow cars to be made in America again. Appealing to the growth of the economy and an increase in American manufacturing has been a tactic President Trump has used since his Presidential campaign. However, California plans to move ahead with its stricter standards. This creates a dilemma because car manufacturers have to decide whether to follow California’s standards in order for their cars to be bought in that state or follow the much lower national standards and potentially lose buyers in California. In order to solve this dilemma, California has tried to negotiate with the Trump administration by stating that they will lower their standards if Trump prolongs the Obama-era standards until 2030. This article offers an interesting insight into how states are attempting to influence environmental policy under a President who doesn’t subscribe to environmentally friendly policy.
by Stephanie Laurancy
This article discusses California’s efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions particularly through discussing the extension of the cap-and-trade program. Republican assemblyman Matias Davis, was one of eight republican state legislators to support the cap and trade extension which would add a decade extending it to 2030. Cap-and-trade limits (puts a “cap” on) companies thus minimizing the number of greenhouses gasses they emit. Should the companies exceed the limit, they may be penalized and penalties may become more strict overtime. The trade portion comes in as a market where companies can buy or sell allowances that permit them to emit only a certain amount of emissions. Although the “cap” portion of cap and trade may be very strict, the trade part provides a great incentive for companies to save money by reducing emissions. Republicans in the state typically do not support the cap-and-trade as it has been describing as “government overreach”. Cap-and-trade has helped with the reduction of carbon emissions; however, the program still faces strong opposition.
The idea of the program being considered to be “government overreach” raises the point that we discussed in class: Should the government get involved in environmental policy?
I would love to hear your opinions on the article.
by Lauren Geitz
Lissa Lucas (D) is running for a statehouse seat in District 7 of West Virginia. This first-time candidate was relativity unknown and had a modest long-term campaign goal of raising $1,500 to purchase yard signs. However, this all changed when she attended a West Virginia House Judiciary Committee in February.
Lissa Lucas got into politics because her grandfather left her his farm with a small gas well located on it. Recently more state politicians in WV have been accepting money from energy companies in exchange for passing legislation that gives energy companies authority over landowners property. Lissa wanted to bring awareness to this issue within her state by running for office and attending the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee meeting. This meeting was a hearing for a bill that allowed energy companies to use private property for drilling without getting the landowners permission. In attendance were several lobbyists for the energy companies, and Lissa Lucas.
She signed up for a speaking slot and started listing committee Republicans and the donations they had taken from donors linked to the oil-and-gas industry. Midway into her speech, committee chairman Del. John Shott (R) interrupted her and had her forcibly removed from the meeting for making “personal comments.”
Since the incident at the meeting occurred, Lissa Lucas has received over $20,000 in campaign donations.
Was committee chairman Del. John Shott (R) justifiable in having Lissa Lucas removed from the meeting?
Should politicians be allowed to receive donations from donors linked to the oil-and-gas industry?